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SpaceShipTwo Design and Pics Released 245

An anonymous reader writes "Designs and photos for Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic's new suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, have been released." Lots of specs and numbers if you're interested in that sort of thing although nothing hugely detailed.
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SpaceShipTwo Design and Pics Released

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  • More pics here (Score:3, Informative)

    by TappedOut ( 1185315 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:50PM (#22155496)
    More pix: []
  • Re:Wow (Score:4, Informative)

    by bark76 ( 410275 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @01:51PM (#22155502)
    Maybe we should all chip in and buy them one of these: []
  • Re:Great! (Score:3, Informative)

    by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @02:07PM (#22155704)

    We need more celebrities and boy band members in space.
    Agreed - better having them in space then on earth.
  • Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by llZENll ( 545605 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @02:35PM (#22156132)
    For those who can't connect...

    PICTURES: Virgin Galactic unveils Dyna-Soar style SpaceShipTwo design and twin-fuselage White Knight II configuration
    By Rob Coppinger
    Virgin Galactic has unveiled a SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, created by Scaled Composites, that harks back to the NASA/USAF Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar glider of the 1960s, while Scaled's carrier aircraft, White Knight II (WK2) has been given a twin-fuselage configuration.

    To be launched on a Lockheed Martin Titan III rocket, Dyna-Soar was for hypersonic flight research but the programme was cancelled before the first vehicle was completed. Some of its subsystems were used in later X-15 flight research and Dyna-Soar became a testbed for advanced technologies that contributed to projects, including the Space Shuttle.

      Above: SpaceShipTwo is carried between the two fuselages of White Knight II

    Virgin Galactic's commercial operations will now start from New Mexico's Spaceport America in 2010 and not from Mojave air and space port in California, as originally planned, but the WK2, SS2 launch system will be test flown by Scaled at the Californian port.

    At its 23 January press conference at the American Museum of Natural History in New York city Virgin Galactic described SS2 as using the same basic technology, construction and design as its predecessor SpaceShipOne (SS1), as 100% composite and twice as large as the $10 million X-Prize winning vehicle, SS1.

      Above: SpaceShipTwo transitions into feathering mode for its reentry

    The SS2 is 18.3m (60ft) long, has a wingspan of 12.8m, a tail height of 4.5m with a passenger cabin that is 3.66m long and 2.28m in diameter. Despite being so much larger than SS1, SS2 will still use a front nose skid, and not nose gear. Released at 50,000ft (15,200m) by WK2, the rocket glider's apogee is expected to be up to 110km (68 miles).

      Above: SpaceShipTwo is under construction at Scaled Composites

    The carrier aircraft, WK2, is now 23.7m-long, it still has a wingspan of 42.7m, with a tail height of 7.62m and its integration is now 80% complete - with the assembly of the wing underway in preparation for its mating with the twin fuselages.

    The WK2 will have four Pratt and Whitney PW308 engines, as revealed by Flight in September last year. And as Flight has also reported WK2's crew and passenger cabin will be the same; for training purposes.

      Above: White Knight II under construction with its twin fuselages being fitted with their tail fins at Scaled Composites

    Virgin Galactic also announced that the SS2 simulator is now operational, ahead of the previous March 2008 date that had been given. It is already being used for pilot training.

      Above: Brian Binnie, Scaled Composites pilot, sits in the SpaceShipTwo simulator

  • A LOT to see here (Score:5, Informative)

    by Somegeek ( 624100 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @02:46PM (#22156306)
    This is not about advancing the state of the art in rocket design, no one ever claimed that it was.
    They are learning how to build an infrastructure that could take paying customers to orbit.

    They are gaining experience carrying passengers and a spaceship up to the edge of space.
    They are gaining experience dealing with novice 'astronauts' and what it takes to prepare them and what they should expect from them in a weightless environment.
    They are gaining experience designing and building and flying carrier aircraft.
    I would imagine that the next generation will use a different rocket design, go significantly faster, and start using heat shielding, with yet a bigger carrier aircraft.
    Once they have that in place, the next generation can upgrade the 'spaceship' to something with serious rockets that have the capability of reaching orbital speeds.

    Or should they have gone for orbit first and hope everything else works at the same time?
  • Re:Nose Skid (Score:4, Informative)

    by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @03:00PM (#22156550) Journal
    Imagine a ski, versus a wheel.

    It's simpler and more lightweight. Less moving parts. Also probably a lot easier to package.
  • by iamlucky13 ( 795185 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @03:20PM (#22156884)
    I'm way, way more excited about SpaceX than Scaled Composites/Virgin Galactic, but it's still cool to see them finally building hardware, even if it is low tech, pressure-fed rockets. It's also interesting to see how much different the actual SS2 and WK2 are from the concept art, which was basically just SSI et all built a little bit longer. I noticed WK2 is going with four smaller engines rather than two large engines, presumably for redundancy. And the wing and nose on SS2 are much different than we saw before, with apparently a fully upright pilot seating position (high windshield) and a low, rather than mid-mounted wing. As flightglobal noted, it looks a lot like the old Air Force Dynasoar concept.

    On two slightly related notes, something that didn't get mentioned in the article is that OSHA is fining Scaled Composites for not providing sufficient training to the technicians killed in the H202 explosion a couple months ago. Just a little business tidbit. As expected, the accident was caused by improper handling. Also, if anyone wants to really see where SpaceX is at the moment, go to their website and read the latest update. There's a ton of fascinating information in there about the construction and testing.

    The Ares 1 is beleagured only because Congress is consistently failing to provide the funding needed to meet the milestones set two years ago. I'm convinced the vibration issue mentioned last week is being overblown. Yes, it's a problem because they were counting on not modifying the casings structurally, but it's fixable without fundamental changes to the concept.

    I doubt the Falcon 9 will actually launch in June as scheduled. Things always come up in big projects, as the Falcon 1 flights have shown, but I'm sure we'll see it go up this year, and hopefully the first commercial payloads for the Falcon 1, as well.
  • by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @03:55PM (#22157432)
    ummm... SpaceX has barely gotten off the pad much less into space. I don't see why you have such a hard on for them. So far all they've got are spred sheets with projections. Until they light the fire and send some metal into space all they are is talk.

    To say Scaled Composites is not "contributing" is incorrect. Who do you think came up with and has built and flown a throttleable solid rocket engine? (I'll give you a hint, It wasn't SpaceX.) They've also come up with some interesting canopy (window) designs that are fairly novel and structurally as well as visually better than what is commonly used today.

    There is also the little detail that you seem to be missing, Scaled Composites isn't interested in the Space Joyride Industry, that would be Virgin Atlantic. They are interested in building inovative aircraft which they do with startling regularity. I doubt a very small contract supplying some souped up versions of their prototype aircraft is going to distract them much.

    Oh also there is the little thing I bet you didn't know. Scaled Composites helps build the Pegasus air launched vehicle which regularly puts 1/2 ton satalites into low orbit, yes that's orbit with a capital "O" and have been part of building two more proof of concept lifters that have flown, along with a dozen new unique aircraft, several of which hold world records.

    So yes we should be focusing of companies starting from "scatch" as you put it instead of companies that still think EXTREME/X marketing is worth a turd and a few simulated launch videos and a few ground test as achievements.

  • by Plekto ( 1018050 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:15PM (#22157806)
    ***This was a very good point, IMO***
    As I mentioned before, I was in error about how much delta v it takes, including gravity losses, to get in orbit, 9500 m/s instead of 11km/s. So about a quarter of the necessary delta v was provided by the motor and a further 300 or so m/s by the plane. Given that SpaceShipTwo goes a bit higher and has more downrange than SpaceShipOne, it probably has a little more delta v. So you're too low by at least a factor of 2 in your delta v estimate. And there's still higher ISP fuels. For example, they can use liquid oxygen in their hybrid to boost ISP. And higher mass ratios will obviously be needed. But I see no reason orbital delta v can't be reached.
    Twice the thrust is probably attainable with more engines(check) and a little more fuel that has a higher energy output(I hate acronyms - a pet peeve of mine). The ship itself that launches them can also without a doubt be made to go faster, especially not IF, but WHEN we get scramjets and similar technologies working. 4000m/sec from the module and 1-2000m/sec from the booster/plane/etc is suddenly not so far off the mark.

    IME, when you start talking about engineering problems and the difference between making it happen and the prototypes is a matter of 2-3x the test results, it's a matter of figuring it out more than being in the realm of "not possible". I don't think Scaled Composites second design can get into orbit, but it's a good step in the right direction, make no mistake about it.

    I have to give them props for trying at least. Their goal is to get into space and not just give joy-rides, after all.
  • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @04:38PM (#22158180) Homepage
    Twice the thrust is probably attainable with more engines(check)

    1) It's not "twice"; it's level of performance is a tenth that of what is needed for orbit.
    2) Thrust is not the problem; it's ISP and staging.

    and a little more fuel

    Try a hundred times more fuel and a craft equivalently large enough to manage it. See OTRAG for details.

    that has a higher energy output(I hate acronyms - a pet peeve of mine).

    Nobody who discusses rocketry any relevant amount will spell out the words "specific impulse" every time. It's just "ISP". Insisting on spelling everything out marks you as a novice as much as I'd come across as an internet novice by constantly spelling out www as "world-wide web".

    The ship itself that launches them can also without a doubt be made to go faster, especially not IF, but WHEN we get scramjets and similar technologies working.

    Lol. Just, lol.

    4000m/sec from the module and 1-2000m/sec from the booster/plane/etc is suddenly not so far off the mark.

    What is off the mark is that Scaled is going to go from polybut and nitrous to an as-of-yet in-development technology that requires carbon-carbon panels and an extensive regenerative cooling system with typically hydrogen fuel, without completely starting from scratch to boot.
  • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday January 23, 2008 @05:43PM (#22159214) Journal
    Right, SS1/2 aren't even close. That's not why they are interesting. You don't expect a Buick to win a Formula-1 race, or even be competitive.

    Further, the team isn't even *trying* to advance the state of the art in any fundamental science.

    But that's why it's interesting. This is a low-tech engineering approach, with as close to commodity parts as they can manage. They're still a long long way from anyhting useful, but if they ever do get there they will have knocked a couple of 0s off the price, and significantly reduced the engineering complexity.

    Naturally that provokes hostility from real rocket scientists - hey, the next thing you know, rocket science will be simple enough to outsource to India. ;) Of course, the reality is likely that the materials science is not be there yet, and one just can't build a useful rocket using low-tech parts yet, but I glad to see someone at least trying.

    And the Penske team did famously win an Indy-car race with a very low-tech Buick-like engine once (pushrods for the win!), but that's a different story.

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